Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, also known as CTS, is a very common orthopedic condition characterized by pain, tingling, and other neurological symptoms affecting the hands and fingers. Although it can go away on its own, it can take a long time to get better and many people suffer from repeated episodes of symptoms. Sometimes, the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome are significant enough to affect someone’s ability to work or even perform basic self-care tasks. Fortunately, there are treatments that can help to counteract carpal tunnel syndrome, including physical therapy.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the main nerve serving the hand, called the median nerve, becomes compressed inside your wrist. This nerve extends all the way down the arm and into the hands, relaying signals from the central nervous system that enable movement and feeling. When the nerve becomes compressed, the flow of messages through the nerve is compromised, resulting in the symptoms associated with the condition.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur for many different reasons. You are more at risk of developing problems if you are overweight or pregnant, have previously suffered an injury to your wrist, or do activities that mean that you repeatedly bend and twist your wrist or grip things hard. People who suffer from other illnesses such as arthritis or diabetes are also more likely to suffer from CTS.
There are numerous symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, including the following:
Numbness in the fingers, hands, wrists, or lower arms
Aches and pains in the fingers, hands, wrists, or lower arms
Pins and needles
Weakness in your hand, specifically your thumb
Finding it hard to grip onto things
Symptoms are usually worse at night and will probably come and go, being more severe some days and not noticeable on others.
Physical therapy is always tailored to the individual needs of each patient, meaning that you can expect a personalized treatment plan to help address your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and help you get back to enjoying your usual everyday activities, be that work or your hobbies.
Treatment can take several different forms, including the following:
Stretching exercises. The purpose of stretching exercises is to improve the flexibility and range of motion of your wrist, hands, and fingers. Your physical therapist will create a range of exercises to achieve this. As well as carrying out these exercises at your appointment, you may also be asked to continue them as part of your at-home therapy.
Strengthening exercises. Muscle strength is an important part of combatting any orthopedic condition, including carpal tunnel syndrome. Your physical therapist may also provide you with exercises that are designed to help strengthen the muscles serving the arms, wrists, and hands, which can help counteract the effects of CTS.
Heat/cold treatments. These can be useful in helping to reduce inflammation and swelling, as well as counteracting pain, and may be recommended to you by your physical therapist as an accompaniment for your exercises.
Splinting. This is where a splint is worn to maintain the position of the hand and wrist in order to reduce further inflammation as well as discomfort.
Education. As well as providing exercises to help improve the movement in your hand and wrists, your physical therapist will also talk to you about positioning. Understanding how you use your body, including your back and spine, and how this can affect other areas of your musculoskeletal system can be crucial in helping to reduce discomfort and other conditions in the future. Your physical therapist will explain the best way of using your arms and wrists to prevent further incidences and how to incorporate breaks into your daily routine.
Post-surgery. If your CTS was deemed severe enough to require surgical treatment, you may be recommended to have physical therapy as part of your recovery. This is important as PT after surgery can help to prevent the formation of scar tissue, restore the strength of your wrist and help you to alter bad habits that may have caused your condition.
If you are concerned about carpal tunnel syndrome, or if you would like to schedule an appointment to talk to us about physical therapy for CTS, please get in touch with our dedicated team in North Massapequa, NY today.